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Sunnyside wants out of Navajo Nation lawsuit

Mine company said has no part in Gold King Mine spill
Water flows through a pond in a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King Mine after an accidental release of mine wastewater on Aug. 5, 2015. Sunnyside Gold Corp. has filed a motion to be dismissed from its inclusion in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation for the mine spill.

Sunnyside Gold Corp. filed a motion last week to be dismissed from its inclusion in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation for the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill.

“We are hopeful that the case against Sunnyside will be promptly dismissed, as we see no basis for us even being named in this litigation,” spokesman Larry Perino wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.

In August, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit that included Sunnyside, the Environmental Protection Agency and its contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC, for the mine spill, which sent 3 million gallons of wastewater down the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The lawsuit also named Kinross Gold Corp. (Sunnyside’s parent company), Gold King Mine Corp. (the entity that owns the Gold King mine) as well as Harrison Western Corp., and John Does 1 to 10.

The reasons Sunnyside asked the U.S. Federal Court in New Mexico to dismiss its inclusion are manifold: the company was not involved on the work last summer, the New Mexico court lacks jurisdiction and the bulkheading of the American Tunnel was done at the direction of the state of Colorado.

Sunnyside argued that for those reasons, the state Colorado should have been also named in the lawsuit.

“In essence, the point of Navajo Nation’s lawsuit is to hold Sunnyside liable for following the directives of Colorado and for intending to store water in Colorado,” the motion says. “The fact that an accident at the Gold King Mine – of which Sunnyside had no part – carried water into New Mexico is irrelevant for a personal jurisdiction analysis.”

In July, Sunnyside filed a similar motion to dismiss concerning the state of New Mexico’s lawsuit for impacts to that state regarding the spill.

Questions have been raised whether the bulkheading of Sunnyside’s American Tunnel has caused mine waste to back up and discharge out adjacent mines, namely the Gold King and Red & Bonita.

The EPA has said it will conduct further evaluations this summer to better understand the network of mines in the complicated drainage.

The Navajo Nation has 60-days to respond to the motion to dismiss, though it has asked the courts for an extension of that deadline.

Sunnyside motion to dismiss (PDF)

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